A steering committee has started to revise Waynesburg Borough’s comprehensive plan, part of which will involve addressing issues regarding the revitalization of the business district. It appears to be an auspicious time for just such an endeavor, with the proposed construction of the new......
The 67th season of Little Lake Theatre is in full swing right now, but, as the Observer-Reporter reported on Sunday, big changes have recently been afoot at the theater, which is one of Washington County’s most enduring and esteemed cultural institutions.
As of Monday, the theater, located off Route 19 near Canonsburg Lake in McMurray, is not being helmed by someone with the surname of Disney. Sunny Disney Fitchett, along with her husband, Rob Fitchett, who was the theater’s managing director, have both departed from Little Lake in order to pursue new endeavors in California and be closer to his father. In 1992, Sunny took over as the theater’s artistic director after her father, Will Disney, stepped down as the overseer of the theater he founded in 1949. She will remain on the theater’s board, but will not be there to shepherd the theater on a day-to-day basis.
At the time when Little Lake was founded, not long after the end of World War II, its location must have seemed unlikely. Surrounded by farmland, at a remove from both Pittsburgh and Washington, with I-79 still a glimmer in a transportation planner’s eye, there were surely a lot of people who wondered if the elder Disney was tilting at windmills with his small theater. Now, Little Lake is set down near a bustling, sometimes-congested area, and has subdivisions and shopping centers as its neighbors. But it still provides a diverting respite for theatergoers, just as it did in 1949, and has provided acting classes, programs for young people, and has served for many as an introduction to the joys of live theater.
One of those individuals is Little Lake’s new artistic director, Roxy MtJoy. A native of Jefferson in Greene County, she comes to the theater after getting degrees at prestigious schools in Virginia and New York, and working in both Los Angeles and New York City. Supervising the daily, nuts-and-bolts operation of Little Lake is Bob Rak, a Peters Township resident who brings extensive experience working in the nonprofit realm, and who also has acted in several productions at Little Lake and with other theater companies in the region.
Last week, MtJoy recalled that the first live theatrical performance she ever attended was a seasonal presentation of “A Christmas Carol” by Little Lake back in the 1980s. She is certainly not alone in having a lifelong love for theater sparked by seeing a Little Lake production, even if many do not go on to fulltime careers as actors, directors, costume designers or stagehands. In its history, Little Lake has been able to adeptly blend both well-known plays and lesser-known productions that deserve to be discovered by local audiences. Before this season ends in December, Little Lake will be staging the area premiere of five plays. The season started with Thornton Wilder’s beloved “Our Town” and will conclude with “Inspecting Carol,” a holiday mainstay, in December.
Little Lake enlivens the cultural life of Washington County, and also helps add to its bottom line. The theater company has fans and admirers who live outside the county and spend money at local shops and restaurants before and after they attend performances. The value of the arts within our community should not be discounted.
We wish MtJoy and Rak a lot of luck. They are inheriting a rich legacy on which to build.
In the United States, we do a smash-up job of putting people behind bars – we have the highest incarceration rate on the planet, with 22 percent of the world’s prisoners and only 4 percent of its population – but we do only a fair-to-middling job in providing education that might have kept some of those inmates out of the prison system in the first place.
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf teamed up with several prosecutors and Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel to push a plan that would provide a significant boost to funding for Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs in the commonwealth, which, they argue, would increase the odds children brought into those programs will grow up to be productive, educated citizens and lower the odds they will waste their potential and while away much of their adulthood behind bars.
Their argument is persuasive. According to Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, which is supporting the proposal, every dollar spent on pre-kindergarten and Head Start returns $1.79 in the short term, and $17 over the long haul. And a study from University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty found enrolling youngsters in pre-kindergarten or Head Start programs increases the chances they will complete high school 14 or 15 years later and not end up being ushered through the criminal justice system.
Boosters for Head Start and Pre-K programs said the programs not only provide a leg up for students in learning that will come in handy once they reach kindergarten, but students who take part also start internalizing lessons in getting along with others, understanding and respecting those who are in authority and, perhaps most importantly, controlling impulsive behavior that could earn them a punishment well beyond a few minutes in time-out once they’re older.
As Wolf said: “There is no better way to invest in the lives of our fellow citizens than in early childhood education. We can see the reverse when we don’t invest. … Let’s reduce the number of people who look at crime as a real option; who think that crime actually does pay.”
Wolf is asking the state’s share of Head Start funding be increased by $20 million, which would enroll about 2,400 additional children, and the amount the state contributes to the Pre-K Counts program be more than doubled, from $97 million to $197 million, which would allow over 11,000 more children to sign up.
A major hurdle for Wolf and his allies, however, is the Republican-controlled Legislature. With the governor having proposed tax and spending increases in other areas, such as K-12 education, a good many lawmakers will not be in the mood to loosen purse strings any further. State Rep. Stan Saylor, a Republican from the York area, told the York Dispatch last week, even though he is a supporter of Pre-K programs and believes some extra money could be on the way, “You’re not going to get the $120 million. The financial support just isn’t there yet.”
So, Wolf probably shouldn’t bank on the entire amount ending up in the budget that, in theory anyway, is due to be wrapped up by July 1. But we hope lawmakers start moving toward giving the Pre-K and Head Start programs the degree of funding they deserve. It will be an investment in the future of thousands of children in the state and, ultimately, an investment in everyone’s future.
We’re frequently reminded of the dwindling number of World War II veterans, and not without good reason – last June, when the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe was being commemorated, the Pew Research Center found only 1 million American veterans of World War II were......